Gaming to Go: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (p2)

In the off-chance that you haven't given any of the most recent Castlevanias a spin, you'll be pleased to hear the formula is delightfully simple. Each game combines the platforming and exploration of classic Metroid titles with the combat of the Castlevanias of old, adding in some light RPG elements to make the whole package even shinier. It's a formula that typically produces some pretty high-quality games, and Order of Ecclesia is no different in that regard.

In a different regard, however, it's pretty damn difficult. Perhaps the years have messed with my memory, but I don't recall predecessor Portrait of Ruin being this challenging, though it had certainly had some intense moments. Order of Ecclesia kicks things up a notch by throwing a large assortment of new enemies at you, each with fresh new attack patterns and so many ways to send you to an early grave. You'll adapt quickly enough to the constant danger, though let it be said that not often will you be able to waltz into a new level or boss fight and emerge victorious on your first go.

So what can you do? Fight! And explore a little, both of which Ecclesia does very well and both of which are pretty well-suited for short-burst gaming. I knew there was no way in hell I could get through the aptly-named Skeleton Cave at my current level, so I spent five or ten minutes running through a few of its rooms racking up experience points, after which I returned, a few levels bolder ... only to be massacred on my first try.

Frustrating? Not as much as you would think. Ecclesia's combat emphasizes quick combos and even quicker evasion of enemy attacks, so going back through the Cave the next time I had a short break was a thrill once I realized I knew the attack patterns and could easily destroy the opposition without problem.

And let's not forget the exploration! Ecclesia has a surprising number of secrets tucked away within its numerous levels, some of which can't be accessed until later on in the game. And while backtracking is rarely an entertaining thing, running through some of the earlier levels with a strong character can still be fun, if only for the pleasure of utterly demolishing the enemies that used to rock your world. But the real entertainment is had in exploring every nook and cranny of those levels with your new powers, as abilities like double jumping can open up entirely new sections of levels that would have been easy to forget about otherwise.

You're bound to fight new treasures, secret rooms, and perhaps even people to save, or at the very least finally figure out what the hell is in that chest sitting just high enough to where a regular jump can't reach. It's a great way to spend a few minutes and and make sure you experience every part of the game, especially since exploration is the key to getting the best ending.

And once you've done that, why not give the Boss Rush mode a try? Or the Time Trial? Both require a strong understand of the game mechanics and an even stronger character to make it out alive, which is likely why I still haven't completed them. But they seem like great additional challenges to the main quest, albeit more time-consuming than the activities described above. No matter how you play it, though, Order of Ecclesia is a fantastic way to pass the minutes.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.